SYRFILM morphs again: film fest stakes out October slot next week

Nancy Keefe Rhodes 10/08/09More articles
From the start, the folks at SYRFILM – short for the Syracuse International Film Festival – have been flexible thinkers. Not content to worry that Central New Yorkers might not support a yearly international film festival that leaned heavily to the international, they set about making this a cinema-friendly region. This has taken many forms, from screenings in all sorts of venues all over the map, to school projects for local students, to residencies for visiting filmmakers, to trips to the far side of the globe to pursue new international partners, to showcasing upstate New York film, to joining with local indie filmmakers to launch the budding Syracuse Film Office, to free outdoor “drive-in” screenings downtown, to initiating now-signature events like the live jazz performances of new scores for classic silent films.

SYRFILM has been held for half a dozen years now at the end of the spring college semester. Each year the festival has edged a few days forward or back, dancing around local final exams and East Coast rival festivals like Rochester’s High Falls Festival and New York’s Tribeca. Last year the festival expanded to encompass two full weekends, though was this really did was split the program into an initial regional showcase with a day off to take a breath – Monday – before the international folks arrived. And last spring the festival organizers, who lost staff in budget cuts, decided to move to a fall slot in 2010 – a wise and sane response to keeping the festival viable by making it more manageable on several fronts.

Last spring Owen Shapiro, SYRFILM’s founder and artistic director, said, “We’ll do a little something in October to make a transition and stake out the time slot.”

That “little something” occurs next week in two parts that intriguingly meld the most commercial aspects of filmmaking (a technology expo for the equipment geeks) with panels of scholarly commentary and master classes in sound design, adding several special screenings at strategic moments and topping it all off with an extravaganza fund-raiser of Salsa dancing at the Hotel Syracuse’s Persian Terrace that includes a costume contest called Dress Like a Star.

On Wednesday and Thursday, the Film and Digital Expo runs from 9:30 – 4:30 in the Renaissance Hotel’s conference center on the corner of Almond and East Genesee. Featuring all manner of cameras, lenses, filters, battery packs, audio and lighting equipment, film and filmmaking accessories, the Expo hosts over 30 industry reps from half a dozen countries who will show their wares and give talks and demos. Jon Fauer, cinematographer, director and founder/editor of the journal "Film and Digital Times," and Garrett Brown, inventor of the revolutionary Steadicam, which allows a cameraperson to walk or run without the jerking of handheld camera-work, will be major presenters. Producer Jacques Lipkau Goyard, based in Rome, Italy, was a major co-producer of the expo, which Shapiro says will continue in future festivals.

Tuesday night the sound design forum opens with a screening of SYRFILM’s recent popular award winner, "Red Like the Sky," whose sound designer, Mirco Mencacci, offers a master class later in the week. Screenings occur on four nights: on Wednesday, Fritz Lang’s silent classic "Metropolis" with a new live score; Friday, a new Mencacci film; Saturday the extraordinary "La Traviata," shot on Steadicam during a live 2003 performance in Paris.

The forum runs daily from Wednesday through Saturday, at the University Sheraton, Newhouse and the Humanities Center, topics ranging from London-based Richard Dyer’s Syracuse Symposium talk on Italian horror films, to cue sheets in 1930s films, to Robert Altman and the musical, to filming opera, to music in Film Noir. And it’s a pleasure to see women well represented among these speakers.

And last weekend Owen Shapiro made it official, announcing that next year’s SYRFILM is scheduled for October 13-17 too – in 2010.

For schedule details on these events, go to syrfilmfest.com. Nancy writes the regular film review column “Make it Snappy” for the Syracuse City Eagle. She has served on the pre-screening committee for SYRFILM the past two years and she is a member of the national Women Film Critics Circle. Reach her at nancykeeferhodes@gmail.com.

TAGS: SYRFILM, Owen Shapiro, Garret Brown, Mirco Mencacci, Richard Dyer, Syracuse International Film Festival, Nancy Keefe Rhodes
EDITION: The Eagle

Rating: 3.1/5 (11 votes cast)

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